Philosophical Review 126 (3):301-343 (2017)

Authors
Ginger Schultheis
University of Chicago
David Boylan
Texas Tech University
Matthew Mandelkern
New York University
Abstract
This essay proposes a new theory of agentive modals: ability modals and their duals, compulsion modals. After criticizing existing approaches—the existential quantificational analysis, the universal quantificational analysis, and the conditional analysis—it presents a new account that builds on both the existential and conditional analyses. On this account, the act conditional analysis, a sentence like ‘John can swim across the river’ says that there is some practically available action that is such that if John tries to do it, he swims across the river. The essay argues that the act conditional analysis avoids the problems faced by existing accounts of agentive modality and shows how the act conditional analysis can be extended to an account of generic agentive modal claims. The upshot is a new vantage point on the role of agentive modal ascriptions in practical discourse: ability ascriptions serve as a kind of hypothetical guarantee, and compulsion ascriptions as a kind of nonhypothetical guarantee.
Keywords ability modals  ability  compulsion
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DOI 10.1215/00318108-3878483
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References found in this work BETA

Counterfactuals.David Kellogg Lewis - 1973 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Blackwell.
Nicomachean Ethics.H. Aristotle & Rackham - 1968 - Harvard University Press.
An Essay on Free Will.Peter Van Inwagen - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Alternate Possibilities and Moral Responsibility.Harry Frankfurt - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (23):829.

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Citations of this work BETA

Bounded Modality.Matthew Mandelkern - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (1):1-61.
Abilities.John Maier - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Counterfactuals, counteractuals, and free choice.Fabio Lampert & Pedro Merlussi - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (2):445-469.
Two Puzzles About Ability Can.Malte Willer - 2021 - Linguistics and Philosophy 44 (3):551-586.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

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